Congress Takes Action for Women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria

   •    July 31, 2014

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Delegates from Pakistan stand in front of the US Capitol building with Inclusive Security’s Founder and Chair, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, after delivering their recommendations on countering violent extremism to members of Congress in April 2014. The women advocated for prioritizing the recruitment and retention of women in Pakistan’s police force, a provision now included in the Senate’s FY 2015 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

As the US government debates critical security priorities—the drawdown of NATO troops in Afghanistan, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and violent extremism in Pakistan, to name a few—Congress is taking exciting steps forward to advance the participation of women in resolving conflicts and promoting global stability.

Just before the August congressional recess, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees passed a FY 2015 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that included over $50 million for programs to promote women’s leadership and improve their political status globally. The bills also authorize funding for a range of foreign aid programs to further implementation of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

The Senate Appropriations Committee took an additional step and included several provisions, supported by Inclusive Security, which would boost women’s inclusion in conflict-affected regions by:

1. Prioritizing the recruitment, retention, and professionalization of women in Pakistan’s police forces in an effort to counter violent extremism.

This was one of the key recommendations in Inclusive Security’s recent policy brief on this issue and was promoted by a delegation of Pakistani women leaders who met with high-level US policymakers earlier this year.

2. Requiring the Secretary of State to certify that the government of Afghanistan is taking consistent steps to protect and enhance the rights of women and girls—a provision also supported by the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate bill emphasizes programs that promote women’s economic and political empowerment and allows the US Department of State to establish a new endowment to invest in women and girls. The bill also expresses support for the direct participation of women in reconciliation negotiations and efforts to reintegrate ex-combatants.

Inclusive Security Action’s Michelle Barsa testified on Capitol Hill last year on the need for more congressional support for Afghan women. View her testimony and recommendations here.

3. Supporting expansion of the role of women in negotiations to end the violence and advance the political transition in Syria.

Inclusive Security’s ongoing work with women activists living and working inside Syria has highlighted the numerous issues that these women would bring to negotiations, including addressing extremism and disarmament. Read the results of our survey of Syrian women.

To view the bill language referenced above, click here.

The Senate and House foreign aid bills must now come before both chambers for consideration, and the differences between the two versions must be reconciled. Inclusive Security is calling on Congress to maintain these important provisions, which will help ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in resolving the very conflicts Congress seeks to end.

Allison Peters is Policy Adviser at Inclusive Security Action, where she shapes the organization’s policy strategies and outreach initiatives, with a particular focus on the US Congress.

Inclusive Security Action partners with The Institute for Inclusive Security to increase the participation of all stakeholders—particularly women—in preventing, resolving, and rebuilding after deadly conflict.

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